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Musica per Arpa
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Suite for harp in C major, Op. 83 (1969) [16:40]
Klement SLAVICKY (1910-1999)
Musica per arpa (1972) [13:55]
Ilja HURNIK (1922-2013)
Tombeau de Köchel pour flute et arpe (2008?) [8:01]
Lubos SLUKA (b.1928)
Suite in modo classico per arpa sola (2007) [11:56]
Miloslav KABELAC (1908-1979)
Slzy a úsměvy (1969) [14:57]
Jiri GEMROT (b.1957)
Trio for oboe, harp and piano (2010) [17:58]
Kateřina Englichová (harp)
Carol Wincenc (flute); Vilem Veverka (oboe); Martin Kasik (piano)
rec. Church of Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, Prague – Vinohrady, 15-16 May, 16-17 June 2015; Martínek Studio, Prague, 8 June 2015.
SUPRAPHON SU41852 [83:00]

This in part operates as a Czech antidote to the flowery prettification conventionally expected of the harp. I revel in the Ravel Introduction and Allegro and the Alwyn Lyra Angelica - not that either is exactly pretty. Kateřina Englichová's very generous disc offers both complement and stimulating contrast to more prominent works for or featuring the harp. This twentieth century music is variously and predominantly for harp solo but joined by top-flight soloists of the flute, oboe and/or piano for the Kabelac, Gemrot and Hurník. Otherwise it's Englichová we hear alone. The sound is clean but not sybaritic. It's mostly an unfamiliar selection and very welcome too.

The Britten is cool, unrushed and full of intrigue. Englichová meets its challenges with unhurried confidence. The Slavický is in three movements. On occasion it conjures the sort of inventive, intricate and sometimes hard and 'alien' sounds we hear in the Octopus music in Herrmann's film music for Beyond the Twelve Mile Reef. Wanda Dobrovská's well structured liner-note tell us that the score has no bar-lines leaving the harpist with considerable freedom. The predominance of thoughtful ambling is off-set by the quicker pulsations of the Capriccio Burlesco finale. Hurník's Tombeau muses affectionately on various Mozart themes and does so bathed in Gallic warmth. The Sluka casts a roving eye over the sort of sweet sounds and contours found in Boieldieu and Bellini. The booklet (in English, German, Czech and French) tells us that this work was 'conceived as a classical five-movement French suite' and this fits with the evidence of our ears.

The Kabelac (for flute and harp) comes to us in a sequence of eight short and fascinating Bagatelles. The otherworldly more modernistic glimpses found in the Britten and Slavický are encountered again here. The music beckons us into a mid-afternoon sleepy Arcadian landscape rife with creatures threatening, enthralling and fearful. The alternating skipping fury and mesmerising dreams of Bagatelle 6 offer some contrast. This is a work that grew over the years with performances of individual movements. It was in 2009 in Prague that this artist and Kateřina Vávrová premiered the work complete.

Gemrot's Trio makes play with the sort of unusual sounds you might expect from a composer who already has a concertino for flute, bagpipes, timpani and orchestra, a suite for six oboes or works for harpsichord four hands and castanets to his name. There is something of Malcolm Arnold's fantastical inclinations about this music especially in Vilem Veverka's oboe which is a leading voice in the melos. I suspect Gemrot is an admirer of the English composer's scores. He is as fluent in the faster pages as he is in the more reflective slower writing and shows optimistic and poetic veining in the finale of this five movement piece.

A recital put together and executed by creative minds undimmed by accustomed attitudes and choices.

Rob Barnett



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